Danny DeVito is back as The Penguin in DC Comics, possible film return

Danny DeVito returns to his iconic role as The Penguin writing for DC Comics, and is open to reprise the role in films.


Danny DeVito gets to play with his iconic role as one of Batman's infamous rogues, The Penguin, but this time as a writer for DC Comics. However, the veteran actor is open to returning in films as well.

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Danny DeVito pens a special DC Comics story, but is also open to returning to his iconic Penguin role. (Images: DC Comics/Warner Bros.)

DeVito previously played the umbrella-toting Gotham City villain in the sequel to the 1989 Batman film, Batman Returns in 1992. Although the role of The Penguin is familiar to even casual fans thanks to the portrayal in animation and in the campy 1966 Batman live action series (played by the late Burgess Meredith), DeVito’s version was notably darker and sinister.

Should the Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor return as the gentleman criminal mastermind of Gotham in live action? Check out the details below.

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Writing Gotham City Villains

DC Comics released a one-shot anthology comic that is dedicated to certain members of Batman’s notorious Rogues Gallery. Titled Gotham City Villans Anniversary Giant #1, it features stories centered on The Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, The Red Hood, Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter Talia, Killer Moth, and The Penguin.

Along with G. Willow Wilson, Stephanie Nicole Phillips, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Nadia Shammas, Dan Watters, Mairghread Scott, and Wes Craig, DeVito is writing one of the stories in the special 100-page comic book. It is particularly a special event for The Penguin, as the comic marks the character’s 80th anniversary:

The Penguin was created in 1941, first appearing in Detective Comics #58. One of the earliest villains in the Rogues Gallery by the legendary Batman creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane, The Penguin is markedly different than others such as The Joker or Two-Face. While a disturbed and conniving individual, Oswald Cobblepot is not insane and his motivations are easy to grasp: money and power.

However, the Tim Burton version from Batman Returns portrayed by DeVito is closer to the kind of dark and macabre psychosis of the Dark Knight’s villains. He holds a grudge against normal people, as his rotund and near-monstrous appearance is what led him to being thrown away by his aristocratic parents, ashamed of their progeny.

Having been raised as a circus attraction, he still possessed a keen intellect, which he summarily used in a scheme to take over Gotham. Though at one point, he was lured into reclaiming his lost legacy by Max Schreck (Christopher Walken). But when that partnership ended, Oswald tried to kidnap and murder the firstborns of Gotham City had it not been for the intervention of Batman.

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DeVito's "Bird Cat Love" story is like a fanboy wish fulfillment, says Danny DeVito and he asked Michelle Pfeiffer first.

DeVito’s entry in the anthology centers on what seems like a wish fulfillment story. In it, The Penguin has a romantic tryst with none other than Catwoman. The story "Bird Cat Love" has the two Batman villains working as a pair in a heist, while carrying on with a love affair. The artwork for the story was beautifully illustrated by artist Dan Mora.

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DeVito himself stated that this is something of a fantasy, but he did speak to his Batman Returns co-star, Michelle Pfeifer (who played Selina Kyle aka Catwoman) beforehand. Says DeVito:

I did call Michelle and tell her that I was doing it. I said Look, it's like my fantasy and it's my dream come true to have an incredible romance with such a beautiful woman. Oswald, I'm talking about, and Selina. She was very excited to hear about it.

Although there were hints of The Penguin attempting to romance Catwoman in Batman Returns, it was quickly rebuffed. This DC Comics story by DeVito seems to be his attempt at exploring that plot thread.

Wearing the top hat and carry the umbrella again?

Continuing with his interview with Forbes about his writing gig for DC Comics, the question of actually returning to the role in a new movie came up. DeVito shared his enthusiasm about the possibility, but here are certain requirements for it to happen:

I feel like it's not out of the question that The Penguin will return someday, but this is all up to Tim, whether or not Tim wants to do this. I would say that could be in the cards because we ain't dead yet. We could do a continuation of what we had in the past because that was truly a brilliant movie. They afforded me that opportunity and I feel very grateful and would I like to revisit it? Why not! It was a really great moment in time for me.

The actor’s statement appears to make it clear that he is open to reprising his role as Oswald Cobblepot. But in the same breath, he mentions that it would be up to director Tim Burton, should he decide to play in the Caped Crusader’s playground again.

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If Michael Keaton can return as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the upcoming The Flash film, DeVito's The Penguin is certainly possible.

Of course, it should be noted that while DeVito states that while the actors who played the roles are still alive and kicking, his Oswald Cobblepot seemingly perished at the end of Batman Returns. The villain fell through the ceiling of his icy lair. Although The Penguin survives briefly, his injuries proved fatal. Or did they? Certainly, there would have to be a convenient plot device required to explain his resurrection.

Still, it is not impossible. Even if Colin Farrell is playing a version of Cobblepot for The Batman, the DCEU is a multiverse. After all, Michael Keaton is returning to the Bruce Wayne and Batman roles for the upcoming The Flash movie. Depending on how well that DCEU multiversal story performs, we might just see DeVito sport the top hat and mow down civilians with a semi-automatic umbrella in the future.

DC Comics Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant is on sale now.

Geoff Borgonia
Geoffrey "Borgy" Borgonia is a veteran writer, artist, journalist, gamer, and entrepreneur based in the Philippines. When not contributing to some of the top pop culture sites on the planet, he spends the rest of his time running his business, practicing martial arts, working on and developing books, comics, and games. In his man-cave, his only luxury is sleep. Borgy on Linkedin.